At a time when much of the country’s workforce is staying home or slowing operations due to the COVID-19 outbreak, U.S. officials are calling on the defense industry to stay the course. Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord issued a memo on March 20 designating the defense industrial base as critical infrastructure that must remain functional during this crisis.
Citing White House guidelines, the memo says that “if you work in a critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule,” adding that everyone should follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for limiting the spread of the disease.
Critical infrastructure for the defense industry includes companies under contract for the development, production, testing, fielding, or sustainment of military systems, as well as those involved in manning, training, equipping, deploying, or supporting military forces. Other tasks such as providing office supplies, recreational support, or lawn care are not included as part of the essential workforce.
According to the memo, the critical infrastructure designation covers, but is not limited to, the following personnel under contract with the Pentagon: aerospace; mechanical and software engineers; manufacturing/production workers, IT support; security staff; security personnel; intelligence support; aircraft and weapon systems mechanics and maintainers; suppliers of medical supplies and pharmaceuticals; and critical transportation.
The DoD will continue to assess the situation as the COVID-19 crisis evolves.